Low Back Pain? Sit in the Pool!

Reference:Camilotti, BM, et al Stature recovery after sitting on land and in water. Man Ther 2009, 14:685-689.

Here are some fascinating facts to tell your patients (like Cliff from Cheers). Did you know that 40% of your total body length is the spinal column and 20% of that is disc height? So basically 8% of your total height is due to your discs(assuming you have absolutely no DDD, which is a huge assumption if you are over 40!)

Excessive compression of the discs may in theory be a part of the mechanism of low back pain thus perhaps explaining why some individuals benefit from treatments focusing on unloading …such as extensions in prone, inversion tables, back braces, mechanical traction or even spinal decompression machines. But why do we only focus on passive methods of unloading? What about ACTIVE unloading? Solution: Aquatic rehab!

In this pilot RCT 14 asymptomatic subjects had their stature measured with a precision stadiometer, before and after carrying a backpack that was 10% of their body weight for 20 minutes.

As expected, all the subjects had a small (5.4% on average) reduction in height after carrying the heavy backpack. Then half the subjects either floated in the pool or sat in a chair on land for 30 minutes. Those in the water had significantly greater recovery than the subjects who simply sat on land (p<0.05).

These results suggest that floating in water for 20 minutes facilitated more rapid stature / height recovery from spinal loading.

What?s my point in telling you of this study? It seems like floating or exercising in water may be an underused modality among PTs. The research in this area certainly still needs to grow, but those who practice aquatic rehab, swear by it!

If you don’t have the luxury of having a pool at your clinic/hospital, tell your patients who spend hours sitting, standing, carrying or lifting to consider going for a swim in their condo pool, community center pool, or a lake at a cottage, join an aqua-fitness class, or just sit in a hot tub!

Posted on: April 09, 2012

Categories: Lumbar Spine

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